Testing time for SRC elections

NEW LEADERSHIP: Witsies queue to vote in SRC elections held on campuses this week. Photo: Nokuthula Zwane

NEW LEADERSHIP: Witsies queue to vote in SRC elections held on campuses this week. Photo: Nokuthula Zwane

CAMPAIGNING for the highly contested Wits 2016/2017 SRC elections during test week has been a strain for some student political organisations. (more…)

Progressive Youth Alliance sweep Wits SRC elections

The results of the 2015 Wits Student Representative Council elections were announced and the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) won with 12 seats of the 15 seats available.

Earlier today Vice Principal  Professor Andrew Crouch announced that the PYA won 12 of the 15 seats available. With Project W winning the remaining 3.

Electoral Officer Jabu Mashinini announced that there were 6973 valid votes, 688 spoilt ballots and the total turn out of students that voted this year was  7 661, 469 people more than the  7 192 total votes received in 2014.

In last year’s election (2014/2015) the PYA won 9 seats with  Project W winning 6 seats.  As with last years election both the Wits EFF and the Democratic Alliance’s Student Organization (DASO) did not receive any seats.

Thamsanqa Pooe, who was running for re-election received the highest number of votes at  3517  votes even though his party (Project W) did not win the election.

Obett Motaung and Lesego Mokwena, both of the Progressive Youth Alliance, received the least number of votes at 2705 votes each.

The current SRC’s Deputy President Omhle Ntshingila said “We are overly excited, the elections went well, they were fair and square. Students are in safe hands”.

A disappointed Thamsanqa Pooe said he that even though there were only 3 Project W members in the SRC, he was certain that students wouldn’t lose out. “In as much as there’s only 3 of us in the SRC, its 3 of our strongest candidates. 3 of the most genuine guys. 3 of the most hard working guys”, Pooe said.

Newly elected education student Ontiretse Phetlu said this win would definitely benefit the often forgotten education campus students, “I want to affirm to them (education students) that their voices will be represented…its the first step,  I hope that they will take our victory as an inspiration” Phetlu said.

DASO’s Odwa Abraham says as an organisation their main mandate in this year’s election was to re-introduce themselves to the student community. ” Our plan this year was to be visible because we ‘disappeared’ last year. We are very happy with how things turned out, the response of the students was positive…so we achieved our mandate”, Abraham said.

Here is the list of the 15 candidates, the number of votes they received and their parties (in order of highest votes):

 SRC

 

Wits EFF says ‘NO’ SRC

This week the Wits EFF caused a stir when they criticised the university  for shifting its’ responsibilities to the the SRC and have called for ‘no SRC’.

The Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) stopped the inaugurual debate of the SRC election campaign because student government only existed to “legitimise” university authorities.

“The university does not listen to students so the SRC is a body that is meant to legitimise the university because the statute requires every institution of higher learning to have an SRC,” said Wits EFF secretary Mbe Mbhele.

“We feel like at Wits it is just there so that university can be a legitimate body but it does not necessarily change anything. It is also strategic move on the part of the university because they are always shifting responsibility.”

“We are not going to use the normal and orthodox means of protest”

Mbhele made his comments to Wits Vuvuzela on Tuesday afternoon shortly after Wits EFF stopped the election debate by singing and toyi-toying on the stage. The debate was called off and a fight broke out between members of Project W, Progressive Youth Alliance and the Wits EFF on the Great Hall stage.

Mbhele said Wits EFF would continue to protest the SRC campaign and prevent the elections from taking place.

“We are going to go there and kick the ballot boxes and the IEC is not going to be able to count the votes,” said Mbhele.

“We are not going to use the normal and orthodox means of protest, if it means we are going to shit at the Great Hall or at his office then we are going to do that.”

Mbhele said the university has relied heavily on the SRC to help students through initiatives such as One Million, One Month, a fundraising drive for students who did not receive funding the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme at the beginning of the year.

Mbhele said that the university should pay for student’s fees and accused it of paying bonuses to “[Vice Chancellor] Adam Habib and his minions.”

Mbhele said the lack of bus services for Wits students to taxi ranks at Bree and Noord were one example of how the SRC was unable to serve students.

“The bus issue has been raised in 2005 and in 2015 students are still complaining about the bus, 10 years later,” Mbhele said.

Mbhele said Wits EFF will use any means possible to force Habib to take their demands seriously.

After all that was said and done, Mbhele concluded the interview with these words “fuck Habib”.

EFF disrupt Wits SRC elections debate

A fight broke out between Project W members and Wits EFF after the red berets disrupted the SRC Elections debate, making the organisers cancel the event. 

Lita-SRC FIGHT 1

ROUND ONE: Wits EFF member on the Great Hall stage after the fight with Project W broke out. Photo Litalethu Zidepa

The Wits SRC Elections candidates’ debate was cancelled Tuesday afternoon when Wits EFF took over the stage chanting “NO SRC.”

Members of Wits EFF were singing and dancing outside the Great Hall before the debate and as the crowds started filling the hall they marched inside and onto the stage.

Wits EFF Secretary, Mbe Mbhele said the party believes the university is not listening to the students. “We feel the SRC is just a body that is meant to legitimise the university…but it doesn’t necessarily change anything because the people campaign against the same things every year.”

Mbhele explained issues such as the bus service has been brought up in campaigns since 2005 and “students are still complaining 10 years later.”

They continued to disrupt proceedings of the debate as the candidates from each party silently looked on from their seats on stage.

Campus Control arrived and stood by, while the organisers were seen going backstage with Campus Control’s Head of Investigations, Michael Mahada.

Soon after all the campaign managers were called backstage for an emergency meeting. When the group came out deputy chief electoral officer, Thembi Dlamini told Wits Vuvuzela the debate was cancelled based on a “collective decision”.

WATCH: 

A tussle broke out on stage between Project W members and those of Wits EFF. Dismissed former SRC president, Mcebo Dlamini was allegedly seen trying to intervene and break off the fight. As Project W tried to get Wits EFF of off the stage, some PYA members physically got involved in the fight against Project W.

Campus Control escorted students out of the hall and locked the doors.

“I am utterly disappointed by the commontion that was caused specifically by the EFF,” said DASO campaign manager, Simphiwe Mbonani.

Mbonani complained the EFF didn’t give the parties a chance to tell students why they should vote for them.

The debate was meant to give the 2015/2016 candidates the opportunity to campaign within their student parties.

*Updated from original.

Alleged Irregularities in SRC

IN-FIGHTING at the SRC has spilled over into a formal complaint to the university management.

LEADER NOT SATISFIED: Jamie Mighti has laid a formal complaint against the SRC Executive.

LEADER NOT SATISFIED: Jamie Mighti has laid a formal complaint against the SRC Executive. Photo: File

 

A formal complaint has been laid by Project W leader Jamie Mighti against executive members of the SRC for mismanagement of funds and an audit and internal investigation are underway.

In a letter given to the Wits Vuvuzela, Mighti has written a letter to the Vice Chancellor to lay a formal complaint about the irregularities that have been taking place with the running of the SRC.

It has also been brought to the attention of the Wits Vuvuzela, Project W is also requesting an audit of the SRC’s finances for the last three years.

It is alleged that “serious chunks of money” are missing. Along with this, Project W will also be pressing charges of “abuse of power and corruption”.

Shaeera Kalla, deputy president of the SRC and executive member, dismissed the claims made by Mighti as “entirely false” and stated that the first quarter report of the SRC will outline exactly what the situation with the SRC’s finances is.

“I cannot comment at this stage given that the process is in the hands of Prof Tawana and legal office.”

Project W, a group that makes up less than half of the SRC with six members out of the elected 15, has written a letter to the vice chancellor’s office in which the SRC’s executive is being accused of not following procedure, among other things. The executive is made of Progressive Youth Alliance members.

Mighti has requested that an internal investigation and audit into the financial management of SRC funds be launched.

Some of Mighti’s allegations include:

  • That the SRC has not had a formal meeting since November 2014
  • The SRC’s executive has been making important decisions outside of the rest of the SRC
  • Procurement processes have not been followed in the purchasing of certain items
  • That there has been unequal allocation of funds to certain portfolios in the SRC with some portfolios being allocated stipends of R5000 whilst others have been allocated nothing.

Mighti also alleged that a Frat house that was renovated as part of the fraternity/sorority programme for day students, that cost an estimated R500 000, has not been opened. The space, which is attached to the DJ du Plessis building on West Campus, was meant to be launched late last year but is yet to be opened due to what he believes is “in fighting” in the SRC.

The letter was sent to Vice Chancellor Adam Habib, Dean of Students Dr Pamela Dube and the legal office’s Dawn Taylor.

When contacted for comment, Dube said:

“I cannot comment at this stage given that the process is in the hands of Prof Tawana and legal office.”

 

 

 

 

Project W distances itself from pro-Palestinian SRC events

Project W has distanced themselves from SRC hosted Pro-Palestine events which they believe is part of a misuse of the SRC office.

Project W, one of the political organisations making up the Student Representative Council (SRC), have distanced themselves from pro-Palestinian events hosted by the student council.

The events were held in collaboration with the City of Johannesburg during Palestine Week at the end of March.

As part of Palestine Week a delegation from Ramallah, a Palestinian city in the central West Bank, visited Johannesburg and met with Mayor Parks Tau. One of the events took place at Wits University where guest speaker Dr Husam Zomlot was invited to give a presentation on Palestine.

But Project W’s Jamie Mighti said it was inappropriate for the SRC to host a pro-Palestinian event and should stay “neutral” on issues like Israel-Palestine.

“The SRC is a parliament for the university, we’re supposed to oversee student structures and stay as neutral as we possibly can,” said Mighti, the SRC campus health and wellness officer.

He said the SRC had only held one meeting up to Palestine Week. The SRC’s hosting of the event and Tau’s visit had not been discussed by all SRC members.

“So you can imagine my surprise as a member of the SRC, to find out that the SRC is hosting the mayor and that the president of the SRC is representing the SRC in this discussion,” said Mighti.

SRC president Mcebo Dlamini, a member of the majority Progressive Youth Alliance, declined to comment on Mighti’s accusations.

“Basically there is nothing to comment on,” Dlamini said.

Wits students protest NSFAS application complications

IMG_3659

PAINED: A PYA member calls for students to unite in solidarity with those unable to pay the upfront registration fee. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

Around 60 Witsies gathered at Senate House on Wednesday to protest the upfront fee expected from NSFAS students.

Students who are awaiting National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) approval have been asked to pay a registration fee of R4 670.

The protesters sang “My mother was a kitchen girl, my father was a garden boy” and chanted “NSFAS voetsek! NSFAS voetsek!” while dancing.

Members of the Wits Student Representative Council (SRC), Progressive Youth Alliance, the Wits Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and Project W attended the protest.

SRC president Mcebo Dlamini told protesters that Wits management was denying “poor students an education”. He called on Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib and management to waive the upfront fee.

“This has never happened at Wits. Why now? Only rich students can study here. We the students demand that you do away with these fee,” Dlamini said.

IMG_3754

SNAP THAT: A PYA member takes photos as students protest outside the Great Hall. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

Secretary of the Wits EFF Mbe Mbhele accused NSFAS of having a policy to exclude black students at Wits and around academic institutions.

“It is only black students who are affected. This exclusion is a reflection of what is happening around South Africa. If it is not resolved we will take radical action,” Mbhele said.

Deputy Vice-chancellor of Academics Prof Andrew Crouch told Wits Vuvuzela that the upfront fee for NSFAS beneficiaries would only affect about 400 students. However, it was not possible to waive their upfront fees.

“If we waiver the fee for 400 students, which is 12 percent of students, than we would have to waiver the complete registration fee [of R9 340] for all Wits Students. We have to be fair here. Bear in mind 88% of students pay full fees,” Crouch said.

Crouch also said that the university are doing their best to deal with the situation.

He said that NSFAS give Wits four types of allocations for funding. The university is trying to move money from three of the four allocations into the NSFAS general allocation to allow for at least 400 students whose applications are pending to receive funding.

“The process will be completed by February,” he said.

Following the protest a joint press conference was held between the SRC and university management.

Habib told reporters that the issue was out of Wits’ hands and that NSFAS had given strict instructions to Wits not to go over its NSFAS bursary allocation as the university had done in 2013 and 2014.

“If we had the money to hand out we would but we just can’t at the moment.”

Habib said the reason behind the high upfront registration fee is because the government subsidy only comes into play from April each year.

“We have to make up the deficits of the first three months of the year and part of the money used to pay staff salaries and fund the university through this period is through the registration fee.”

Dlamini accused Habib of being “politically correct”.

“Our VC is playing politics,” he said. “It’s a sad moment, the university wants to eat its own like a pig.”

IMG_3842 edited

CALL TO ORDER: A member of the EFF calls for management to explain themselves to students. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

Dlamini also blamed Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande for not taking the NSFAS issue and the Wits SRC seriously.

“When we met with the minister he kept joking and talking about Nkandla,” Dlamini said. “We just hope he listened to us. He must start taking education seriously and allocate more money for higher education before students end up on the streets.”

Some students on Twitter had also threatened violence if students were excluded over a lack of NSFAS funding. Habib warned that violence on campus would be taken “seriously by the law”. Students found to be involved “in such actions will be expelled” with no chance to reapply to the university in the future.

 

 

Project W reject portfolio decision, look to referendum or legal recourse

Project W members of the Wits SRC (Students Representatives Council) have rejected a decision by the vice-chancellor (VC) about portfolio allocations and will continue to contest the outcome of the process.

Wits VC Prof Adam Habib has ostensibly put an end to the ongoing student leadership spat between Project W and the PYA (Progressive Youth Alliance) by endorsing the recent portfolio allocations but Project W say they will not accept the positions allocated to them.

All members of the SRC were informed of the VC’s decision via a letter on Wednesday but in response Jamie Mighti of Project W said, “We are unavailable to serve in sham portfolios and remain of the view that they were not in the interests of students and are thus unconstitutional.”

According to the response, sent in an email to the Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube, Project W said they “cannot serve in portfolios created without our consent and consultation. We will not therefore be taking up those specific portfolio allocations.”

Project W have notified the University that they “will be seeking further recourse from the student body through a referendum as well as through various other platforms both legal and otherwise.”

“We are unavailable to serve in sham portfolios”

On Friday, October 3, Project W walked out of a meeting of the SRC once again, arguing that ‘the best interests of the students are not being considered by the PYA in the portfolios that they are trying to bully the SRC into adopting”, according to Mighti.

“There is a continuing attempt by the PYA to create white elephant portfolios within the SRC to undermine the ability of Project W to serve the students and to attempt to emasculate the organisation’s longevity at the university,” he said.

Mighti added that “A cost benefit analysis of the portfolios proposed by both parties reflects the malice and bad faith of the PYA, as well as illustrating that they have little concern about student problems.”

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela on behalf of the PYA, Sasco chairperson Nompendulo Mkatshwa said: “We are receptive of Prof Habib’s endorsement of the list as re-constituted on Friday, 3 October 2014 as requested by colleagues of Project W. It cannot be that the leadership of students is held ransom by the lack of understanding of democratic centralism by others. It is unfair to the movement we are in – a movement driven by the interest of students.”

Mkatshwa said the portfolios of the SRC elect are in no way exclusive of the development and progress that ought to be achieved by the SRC in the interest of students.

“Now that Prof Habib has endorsed the list, those that want to lead can finally begin doing what students voted for them to do. Not everyone got the office they may have dreamed of, from executive to the last portfolio holder however, a good leader will always make the best of what they are given”, said Mkatshwa.

The VC’s intervention in the tussle between the SRC members, is based on Clause 30 (1) of the SRC Constitution which provides that: “After due notice of its failure to carry out any function or duty, should the SRC continue to fail in carrying out any of its functions or duties, the vice-chancellor has the power to carry out any such function or duty in the spirit and manner prescribed in this Constitution.”

“Having outlined the University’s position, I would like to consider this matter resolved and look forward to working with the new Student Representative Council”, said Habib in his letter.

The 2014/2015 Students Representative Council

1.  Mcebo Dlamini, President

2.  Shaeera Kalla, Deputy President

3 . Senzekahle Mbokazi, General Secretary

4 . Amogelang Manganyi, Deputy Secretary General

5 . Mthuthuzeli Mahlangu, Treasurer

6 . Tanya Otto, International Students Affairs

7 . Gwinyai Dube, Strategic Planning

8 . Omhle Ntshingila, Clubs, Societies & Organizations And Student Governance

9 .   Waseem Talia, Student and Legal Services

10.  Jamie Mighti, Campus Wellness

11 . Fasiha Hassan, Academic

12 . Kabelo Murray, Social and Community Development

13 . Thamsanqa Pooe, Transformation

14 . Enhle Khumalo, Research and Policy

15 . Blaise Koetsie, Projects, Media and Campaigns

 

Wits SRC on the edge

 

IT’S PYA DAY: Project W’s Jamie Mighti (left) attempts to argue a point to PYA member and former SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa (right) after Project W walked out of the SRC’s fi rst meeting over the selection of portfolios. Mgudlwa attempted to bring Project W back to the meeting. Photo: Nqobile Dludla

IT’S PYA DAY: Project W’s Jamie Mighti (left) attempts to argue a point to PYA member and former SRC president Sibulele Mgudlwa (right) after Project W walked out of the SRC’s first meeting over the selection of portfolios. Mgudlwa attempted to bring Project W back to the meeting.                                                                                                             Photo: Nqobile Dludla

by Ilanit Chernick and Nqobile Dludla

The abrupt end of the new SRC’s first meeting, which climaxed with a dramatic walkout by Project W who accused the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA) of being “illegitimate and undemocratic”, followed a week of behind-the-scenes battles over positions on the new council.

Project W walked out during the vote for new portfolios, which they said were decided without their input by the PYA—who have a majority of the seats on the new SRC.

The vote carried on with PYA member Mcebo Dlamini being elected as the new SRC president.

However, while the PYA presented a united front at the SRC meeting, the decision to select Dlamini and other SRC executive committee members was far from unanimous.

“There are also older comrades in the PYA who influence the decisions on the presidential candidate and the executive committee. The process is increasingly frustrating,”

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to leaders in the PYA, who confirmed the alliance struggled to make a decision on who should be elected to the important executive positions. All the PYA leaders requested anonymity because they were not authorised to speak on internal alliance politics.

According to one PYA leader, there was a struggle to decide between three presidential choices, Dlamini, Amogelang  Manganyi, and Senzekahle Mbokazi with disagreement over their different levels of experience and ability to carry out their duties.

Some PYA members believed Dlamini was the strongest candidate because of his position as Wits Junction chair despite a controversy earlier this year over his false claim to be a member of the prestigious Sisulu family.

“People want Mcebo despite controversies surrounding him in the Sisulu question,” the PYA leader said.

According to this PYA leader, Mangayani’s suitability as a SRC president was questioned because he is currently a fifth-year medical student and would face time constraints next year that would affect his ability to meet presidential duties.

This process of selecting executive members of the SRC was made more complicated by senior PYA leaders outside the current SRC attempting to influence the selection of positions.

“There are also older comrades in the PYA who influence the decisions on the presidential candidate and the executive committee. The process is increasingly frustrating,” the PYA leader said. He declined to name the senior PYA members involved.

However, a second PYA leader interviewed by Wits Vuvuzela denied that lobby groups within the alliance had been allowed to form.

“The PYA don’t squabble,” the second PYA leader said, “We meet as a collective. Those members with experience try to advise or give opinions when choosing candidates for exec or president but things change all the time.”

However, this PYA leader admitted the alliance had little control groups and friends within the PYA who form “behind closed doors” and who have decided on backing their own candidates.

“But we call all members of the PYA together to decide who should be presidential candidate. We decide and solve these issues together,” the PYA leader said.

The walkout

The politicking within the PYA ended with Wednesday’s meeting and the walkout by Project W.

Wits Vuvuzela had initially been denied access to the portfolio meeting. However, after a short conference between Project W’s Jamie Mighti and outgoing SRC president Shafee Verachia she was allowed in “as a student” so long as she put away her camera and voice recorder.

The meeting was held in Senate House and chaired by Verachia. It was attended by 14 of the 15 newly elected SRC members. Also in attendance were representatives from other Wits student councils and three members of the current SRC.

The meeting was also attended by former SRC and PYA members Sibulele Mgudlwa, Joyce Phiri and Tshepo Ndlovu, Ntshembo Vuma and Thabang Ntshanana. A Project W member, Zuhayr Tayob, was also in attendance.

The meeting first voted for the executive positions, including president, with PYA members taking the top five slots with little protest from Project W.

“What do they expect me to do, teach yoga?”

However, 20 minutes into the meeting an argument erupted during a debate over portfolios. Both the PYA and Project W had proposed new portfolios for the SRC and motivated for them during the meeting.

Verachia then moved to have a vote on the portfolios, however Mighti objected saying there should be an open debate over the proposed portfolios before the vote.

Verachia responded that both organisations had already motivated for the proposed portfolios and further debate was not needed.

After another brief exchange between the participants, Verachia again moved for a vote resulting in the Project W members gathering their belongings and walking out of the meeting.

“We walked out because it was an illegitimate forum. They are not allowed to dictate positions to us, and this was an unjust abuse of power,” Mighti said.

Verachia adjourned the meeting after the walkout and Mgudlwa successfully attempted to convince the Project W members to return to the meeting.  Verachia then cited SRC rules governing meetings and reconvened the meeting with the remaining SRC members.

“The PYA have chosen to dictate positions to us instead. Positions which we will not agree too because they are redundant white elephants which is a betrayal to students’ needs,” Mighti said.

Mighti, who was made the Campus Wellness officer, said his position was redundant because there were already university structures to help student health.

“What do they expect me to do, teach yoga?” he asked.

Mighti said they would lay a complaint about the meeting with university authorities. Failing that, they would seek an interdict at the South Gauteng High Court to overturn the outcome of the meeting.

Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib said he was “gathering information” about the situation.

Verachia said the PYA were preparing a statement in response to Project W’s walkout and subsequent accusations. However, it had not been sent to Wits Vuvuzela as of our print deadline.